Students break tradition at UW-Fox

Children's Center
The Children’s Center on campus offers many nontraditional students with children more freedom in scheduling courses. · photo by Vinnie Oestreich

The decision regarding what college one should attend can be perplexing at best. The decision to return to college as an adult or as an international student can be even more bewildering. There are multiple aspects to consider in this life-changing decision. For a nontraditional student, college brings its own unique set of challenges.

While the first day of a new school can be hard for anyone, as an adult student who may feel out of their element, it can be even more challenging.

“My first day was in Jan. 2015. I had only ever taken one college-level class at a very small community college in Oklahoma. It was very different, and I wasn’t familiar with what college, or college-level classes were going to be like,” UW-Fox Sophomore Gage Moede said.

UW-Fox meets the needs of students in multiple ways, according to Senior Student Affairs Coordinator Tammy Brunette, and is a viable choice for those whose college needs are not those of a typical college freshman.

“UW-Fox offers adult students many options, such as child care and flexible class schedules. Many adults who attend [UW-Fox] have kids or jobs, so they need more options than some of our other students when attending college,” Brunette said.

There are also social aspects to consider. Large universities are often intimidating to nontraditional or international students. Fox offers small class sizes, which is a benefit to all students, and helps those who have not been in an educational setting ease back into academics.

“I love that the classes are small. It makes me, as a ‘non-trad’ student, a little bit less scared to be in a classroom setting,” Lisa Simms, consortium student with UW Oshkosh, said.

University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium is a 30-credit program for students seeking their master of business administration.

International students also may feel a bit overwhelmed coming to college far away from home. UW-Fox currently has 22 international students from several countries such as Peru, Korea, China and Kuwait. At times, these students may feel homesick and out of their element in college being so far away from all they know and love. UW-Fox helps these students by having an on-site graduate intern, Rose Marie Burns, who assists them with questions and concerns regarding many aspects of college, as well as helping them assimilate to the community, which may be quite different than what they are used to.

Students may arrive early if they are coming to reside at The Fox Village, and get a feel for their surroundings a month before other students arrive. International students also have a special orientation time, which is composed of small groups and provides more personal attention.

Burns has put together a resource manual which will be used in the upcoming school year that will address and assist international students with a variety of questions or concerns they may have while getting acquainted in their new surroundings.

“Often, students have questions about things like where they can get a driver’s license, or questions about shopping in the area, and things of that nature. This simple resource [manual] can be a big help as far as them having it right there to look at when questions like that come up,” Burns said.

Those considering returning to school have various reasons for considering UW-Fox. One is its affiliation with all UW universities, and the ability to transfer to any of the four-year campuses.

“As I look into colleges, I want a ‘starter’ college where I can ease back into education without feeling overwhelmed,” John Gregorich, a prospective nontraditional student, said. “UW-Fox Valley is small enough to feel comfortable, but large enough academically to be challenging, since it is part of the whole UW system. The transfer option is also great. I could even attend UW-Madison if I wanted to.”

Cost is also a factor in students’ decision to attend UW-Fox, as it has the lowest tuition fees in the area, making it an attractive option to many students, traditional or nontraditional.

“Basically, I chose this school because it was cheap,” Freshman International Student from Uzbekistan Nailya Gubaydullina said.

Fast-track is also an attractive option offered to adult students at Fox, as it offers accelerated courses in seven weeks, as opposed to the usual 12. Many older students, particularly those with jobs or families, find this to be an advantage in their often hectic lifestyles.

“I think we all have to work hard for our degrees, and the grind of working and going to school day in and day out can be difficult. It seems as if the majority of students at UW-Fox both work and go to school, myself included,” Moede said.

Several companies fund their employees’ higher education, if it is needed for advancement or to help employees obtain more professional footing in a demanding job market. Many have taken advantage of this opportunity to further their careers or learn new skills needed in today’s competitive workplace.

Yet, not all adult students are thrilled to be back in school. Some return because of a life change, such as employment layoffs or downsizing, or a more personal issue such as a divorce.

“Some adult students are actually angry to have to return to school. They find themselves in difficult life circumstances and going back to school wasn’t in their plans,” Brunette said.

Most students, however, are excited by the prospects of achieving a higher education, and new beginnings at Fox. What is still more intriguing for some is the chance to be away from home and experience a different culture as an international student.

“I came to America as an international student from my junior year, and stayed with a host family. I chose Fox for a lot of reasons. One is that the student housing is very close to the school. I’m never homesick; I like it here,” Gubaydullina said.

Fox may be traditional within the curriculum it offers students, but it is far from traditional when it comes to  options it presents to a variety of student backgrounds.